Fraser: Dwight Eisenhower’s summer playground — Sky-Hi Daily News

Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.
Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.
From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kristi Martens, Steve Sumrall and Ashley Trotter):

At the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social, the Grand County Historical Association will offer guided tours of President Eisenhower’s summer playground at Byers Peak Ranch.

Join us on Saturday, Sept. 12 ,for the Taste of History Champagne Brunch fundraiser, and purchase tickets ($40 – $50) online at

According to Charles Clayton, President Dwight Eisenhower is probably Fraser’s — if not Grand County’s — most famous visitor. From 1948 to 1955, and possibly as early as 1938, Eisenhower visited the Fraser Valley many times. During the early years of his presidency, from 1953-55, Eisenhower visited 26 days. He always stayed at one of the cabins on the 3,800 acre Byers Peak Ranch along St. Louis Creek, owned by his friends, Aksel Nielsen and Carl Norgren.

For decades prior to his presidency (1953-1961), Eisenhower was quite familiar with Colorado. Then an up and coming military man, Ike married Mamie Doud in 1916 at her family home at 750 Lafayette Street in Denver, now a National Historic Register site. Ike was 25 and Mamie aged 19 then. Denver became their home base while on active military duty throughout the world.

Research by Fraser historian Steve Sumrall shows that it was through Mamie’s father, John Doud, that “Ike” became acquainted with the Fraser Valley. Mr. Doud’s bookkeeper and financial advisor was young Aksel Nielsen. At the Doud home, Aksel met Ike probably circa 1925. Their friendship grew as they shared a passion for the great outdoors and fishing. Aksel introduced Ike to the Rocky Mountains as early as 1938, a trip which may have brought the future president to Byers Peak Ranch and Fraser’s famed fishing creeks.

At the time, Aksel Nielsen, along with business partner Carl Norgren, began purchasing land in the Fraser Valley. They had a deep appreciation for Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, founded and operated by Jessie Arnold from 1932 to 1939. Their children attended the summer camp that for a few weeks each year even allowed girls. Norgren’s daughter, Gene, the future Mrs. Walter Koelbel, was a camp counselor. Arnold built the many log cabins that still exist on the property.

When the camp went into default, Norgren and Nielsen stepped in and purchased the 160 acre Byers Peak Ranch in 1939. As part of the business and philanthropy corps of Denver, Nielsen and Norgren were involved with the National Western Stock Show and the gentlemanly occupation of cattle ranching. They purchased lands surrounding the Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, including Frank Carlsen’s property that had once belonged to the Gaskill’s.

By the mid-1950s, the two investors owned over 3,800 acres including a 3-mile stretch of St. Louis Creek — prime trout fishing waters. Their goal was to turn the land from a youth summer camp into a working cattle ranch, with a little fishing on the side. They urged their friend Eisenhower to visit their new ranch.

Growing up the third of seven brothers in Abilene, Kansas, Dwight Eisenhower loved to fish and hunt. Aksel realized that fishing at St. Louis Creek would be the salve that his buddy Ike craved as World War II loomed in the distance. Certainly after the war, when Eisenhower returned a true hero, Byers Peak Ranch offered the private escape for one of the leaders of the Free World.

Correspondence about visits to Byers Peak Ranch shows that in June 1943, Aksel addressed then Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have gone up to the ranch, cleaned out the cabin and have everything ready for you … you can go up there and hide and nobody need know where you are … you may do a little fishing.”

Writing from the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe on April 3, 1952, and prior to his election as president, Ike wrote to Aksel, “In spite of the rush of events and some of the complicated possibilities, I do hope that you and I may be able to pick up a few rainbow at Saint Louis Creek.” (These letters and others are on display at Cozens Ranch Museum, Grand County Historical Association, in Fraser.)

A few months later, upon receiving the Republican nomination for president in Chicago, Eisenhower picked the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver as his campaign headquarters. He was then off to Byers Peak Ranch to get to know his young running mate, Richard Nixon, plan their campaign strategy, and to fish and cook.

In his autobiography, Mandate for Change, 1963, Dwight Eisenhower explained, “In the Fraser area, which I started to visit just after World War II, Aksel and I like to stay for several days at a time. The gatherings were always a small group of men, and I … always the cook … In simpler pre-presidential years, this meant cooking at the most, for three or four. But once I started traveling with Secret Service men, signal detachments, and staff assistants, our simple fishing expeditions became as elaborate as troop movements.”

In August 1954, President Eisenhower invited former President Herbert Hoover to Byers Peak Ranch for a working vacation. Ike wrote to Hoover, “as to fishing: My own choice is to go over the Berthoud Pass to Fraser. The altitude of my friend’s little ranch there is under nine thousand feet. There is a small stream on which we catch ten and twelve inchers, and of course there is always the chance for the occasional big fellow of something on the order of sixteen or seventeen inches. I assure you that you don’t need to be especially terrified at the prospect of living on my cooking for a couple of days. My culinary reputation is pretty good … It is a grand place to loaf and we will have absolutely no one with us except my great friend who owns the place … I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of the two of us having a period together in such a quiet retreat,” wrote Eisenhower.

Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s last trip to Byers Peak Ranch was a year later, in September 1955. Aksel built a new cabin for Ike, now an older president at age 65. Wrote Aksel,“We moved into the new house up at Fraser … I will tell you that is has a beautiful Youngstown kitchen in which you can practice your culinary arts. It has a nice dining section off the living room where you can feed your guests. It has a beautiful living room overlooking the Continental Divide and Byers Peak. … It has St. Louis creek where it always was but we have built a pond just off the corral … “

Replied Ike, “I can’t wait until we get into the new house at Fraser. I suppose I shall be expected to produce something superlative on that beautiful new kitchen of yours.” Ike and his team visited the new cabin twice, and for the last time on Sept. 23, 1955 when they headed east, back to Denver over Berthoud Pass.

The next day, on Sept. 24, Eisenhower’s life-changing heart attack occurred after a day of golf in Denver. It permanently ended Ike’s retreats to Byers Peak Ranch. Due to Fraser’s high altitude, doctors insisted that Eisenhower’s summer playground move East for the remainder of his presidency, and life.

Today, a visit to Byers Peak Ranch, down a private dirt road, reveals a mix of refurbished structures along with many historic, log cabins. The “modern” 1955 modular house, with Ike’s fancy kitchen, is next door to the Gail Delaney property. Ike and Aksel’s first log cabins are further up the road, with one labeled, “Ike’s Cabin.”

Join us at the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., to experience the glory of Byers Peak Ranch and with guided tours of the Eisenhower Cabins. For tickets, go to

Drought news: D0 shows up in the #ColoradoRiver headwaters

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


During the past 7-days, heavy rain (in excess of 2 inches) fell across portions of the Southern Atlantic Coast region (especially the Florida peninsula, and the coasts of both Georgia and the Carolinas), the coastal ranges and Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, Maine, and the southern Alaska Panhandle. Heavy rain also fell in portions of east-central Puerto Rico, in association with what was Tropical Storm Erika. Larger-scale areas of moderate precipitation (0.5-2 inches) were reported in the Southwest, remaining portions of the coastal ranges and Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, portions of both the Rockies and Great Plains, the north-central Mississippi Valley, the interior Southeast, parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and New England. Moderate precipitation was also reported across interior Alaska and the Seward Peninsula, the northern Alaska Panhandle, and much of the remainder of Puerto Rico…

Northern and Central Plains

Slight adjustments were made to the D0 depiction in eastern and central Montana this week, based on recent rainfall. In Nebraska, three relatively small areas of abnormal dryness (D0) were introduced this week, based on increasing dryness. In the Panhandle, September is typically the time to plant hard red winter wheat. Warm, dry conditions are a concern in getting crop sown with good seed bed moisture and established with ample time for optimal root development prior to hardening off before the arrival of winter. In south-central Nebraska (Hall and Adams Counties), there were reports of dryland corn and beans rapidly deteriorating. Abnormal dryness (D0) was also added to extreme southeastern Nebraska (Pawnee and Richardson Counties). In northwestern, north-central, and central Kansas, D0 coverage was expanded based on 30-day and 60-day PNPs and the CPC 3-month SPI…

Northern and Central Rockies

A continuing lack of precipitation across western Montana prompted a slight eastward shift of all drought categories. In north-central Colorado (southeastern and central Grand County) less than a quarter-inch of rain fell this week. This was a hot, dry period with high evaporative demand, prompting the introduction of a small area of abnormal dryness (D0) to the drought depiction…

Southern Plains

Lots of relatively small-scale adjustments were made to the drought depiction in Texas and Oklahoma this week, primarily deterioration. An area of extreme drought (D3) was added to east-central Texas. Along the border with southeastern Oklahoma, severe drought (D2) was expanded across southern McCurtain, Choctaw, eastern Bryan and southern Pushmataha Counties. Abnormal dryness was expanded northward into southern Le Flore and southern Latimer Counties. An area of D0 was added to part of far southwestern Oklahoma, based largely on soil moisture data. Plant Available Water (PAW) in this area at 4-, 16-, and 32-inch soil depths is approximately 0.10-inch, 0.50-inch, and 0.95-inch, respectively…

Southwest and California

No alterations were made to the drought depiction this week in these areas. Conditions will be reassessed next week…

Looking Ahead

For the upcoming 5-day period, September 3-7, 2015, a swath of rain (1.5-2.0 inches) is forecast across eastern Arizona, much of western and central New Mexico, and western Colorado. For the southern Atlantic Coast, 1.5-3.5 inches of rain is predicted. Beneficial precipitation is also expected for western Washington (1.5 inches), northern Montana (2-4 inches), and western sections of both Virginia and North Carolina (1.5 inches). For the ensuing 5-day period, September 8-12, there are elevated odds for above-median precipitation for most of the central and eastern CONUS, and for the southern coast of Alaska. There are elevated odds for below-median precipitation for the northwestern CONUS and northwestern Alaska.

Why so few water markets in the West? — The Mountain Town News

The Four Corners Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico draws water from the San Juan River. 2014 photo/Allen Best
The Four Corners Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico draws water from the San Juan River. 2014 photo/Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Water intensity of energy but also why the West has so few water markets

The value of water depends upon context. To somebody in a desert, absent a drink for three days, nothing could be more valuable. In a flood, the value of the water would lie in its absence.

In Western states, where scarcity more generally prevails, we’re still fumbling with how much value to assign water. Stacy Tellinghuisen brings this observation to her work in evaluating water issues at the nexus with energy for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental non-profit. WRA in 2011 issued a report “Every Drop Counts: Valuing the Water Used to Generate Electricity.”

Stacy Tellinghuisen
Stacy Tellinghuisen

In a conference call sponsored by The Biomass Monitor, Tellinghuisen said that one of the few water markets exists in northern Colorado. There, in the area north from Denver, many cities and farms get water diverted from the Colorado River via an elaborate diversion structure called the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Completed after World War II, the C-BT was intended to provide water to expand agriculture. Now, the water has mostly been purchased for municipal use in the Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins area.

Water prices spiked between 2000 and 2008, said Tellinghuisen, reviewing the report that WRA did several years ago. “The price increased significantly, and that was largely due to significant drought in 2001 and 2002, combined with additional population growth in the region,” she said.

“I think that trend is a really relevant when you think about climate change and continued municipal growth across the West,” she added.

Why does this more highly developed market exist in northern Colorado? And why is it absent elsewhere?

Tellinghuisen explained that she thinks it’s because of the unusual nature of the C-BT. The project was finished at one time, water becoming available in the form of shares. This is in contrast with water availability in so many other places governed by the doctrine of prior appropriations. Appropriation dates vary greatly, as do allotments and other factors.

Tap fees are one way of measuring the value of water. They are the costs of getting the right to hook into the water-delivery infrastructure of a city or other jurisdiction. In theory, tap fees would be more-or-less uniform across a metropolitan area, just as the price of bread varies only marginally from one store to the next. In practice, said Tellinghuisen, there is great variability. She cited the example of Denver, which charges $5,000 for a tap fee, as compared with one of Boulder’s suburbs, where the cost is $25,000.

Even within individual cities, water can be valued very differently. Southern Nevada Water Authority has specified rates for existing users. How then to explain the current efforts by Las Vegas to extend pipelines hundreds of miles away to tap aquifers along the Nevada-Utah border? The cost of that water would necessarily be much higher.

Water consumed in generating electricity also varies greatly. Coal-fired power plants used significant quantities, typically 500 to 600 gallons per megawatt of production, while nuclear power plants use on the order of 700 gallons per megawatt. Combined-cycle natural gas plants use less, 180 to 200 gallons per megawatt.

Dry-cooling techniques for fossil-fueled generation can reduce water use by up to 90 percent, and more electrical production now comes from natural gas, instead of coal, resulting in a net reduction in the water footprint of energy.

In the renewable sector, biomass plants vary greatly, between 400 and 500 gallons per megawatt. Wind and solar use virtually none, except for concentrated solar—which uses a lot of water.

Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best
Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

Recent years have brought greater awareness of the water intensity of various forms of electrical production. Investor-owned utilities, the primary providers of electricity in Colorado and other states, are governed by state-appointed public utility commissions, and those utilities in recent years have begun describing water impacts in the resource-planning documents they are required to submit to regulators.

Arizona Public Service was among the first to begin disclosing water impacts, but others now do so, too. Statutes delegating authority to PUCs provide authority to consider water, said Tellinghuisen, but there’s also a broadening understanding of the water-energy nexus among energy companies and government regulators.

Why does it matter?

“It comes back to a zero-sum game,” said Tellinghuisen. Virtually all rivers in the West are tapped out. For expansion of water use for one purpose, other water uses must be curtailed. While there are laws that govern the transfer, meaning a new power plant couldn’t just seize water, causing cities and farms to go dry, it is part of societal choices. WRA obviously thinks that the minimal water use of renewables is a major argument for increased renewables.

#AnimasRiver: How Are Farms Affected? — Modern Farmer

Animas River photo via EPA
Animas River photo via EPA

From Modern Farmer (Gabrielle Saulsbery and Andrew Amelinckx):

Joe Wheeling, a co-owner of the James Ranch in Durango, Colorado, tells Modern Farmer that they rely almost exclusively on water from the Animas River for their irrigation needs. Their crops went without water for “three or four days” before the EPA agreed to provide them with water from Durango, but he says “it’s not a huge amount.”

Wheeling runs the The Gardens at the 400-acre ranch, along with his wife Jenn. They grow organic produce, flowers, and herbs. There’s also a dairy and grass-fed beef cattle operation there. He says that because they had ponds at the ranch they were able to water the cattle from there, but that “it’s impacted our irrigation and grazing cycle.”[…]

Trying to get an exact number on the farms and ranches impacted by the spill hasn’t been an easy task since information is still coming in from the various agencies…

A contact at the United States Department of Agriculture tells Modern Farmer that it’s still gathering information and doesn’t have any final data on what farms are affected, or how many, but that its county field offices are “communicating with producers in the interim to assess local conditions.”

The agency is “monitoring conditions closely to gather information on potential agricultural needs. That will let us know what might be necessary, or possible,” the source said.

What we do know is that in Colorado, there was a period of between three and seven days when irrigation water was shut down to an estimated 2,500 acres of land, and while that’s tough on crops, it’s the potential residual effects from the heavy metals that are more worrisome. And as of now there’s no way to quantify those effects…

Wheeling says they are taking it slowly when it comes to returning to using the river for irrigation purposes and will be looking for a variety of indicators before they do. Until then they’ll continue to use the water that’s being driven over from Durango to water their crops. He says the ranch invested in a sand filtering system for the farm a couple of years ago, which should help with providing clean water when they do return to using the Animas River.

“We’re pretty confident that that will filter out whatever remaining sediment might be there. We’re not just jumping into things. We’re being cautious,” he says by phone. “At the end of the day it’s the trust our customers have in us and we take that trust very seriously.

#ColoradoRiver: Colorado Water Conservation Board to Release Ruedi Reservoir Water for Endangered Fish — CWCB

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Linda Bassi/Ted Kowalski):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today [September 2] initiated the release of water from Ruedi Reservoir for the month of September for the benefit of the Colorado River endangered fish.

On August 31, the CWCB entered into a lease agreement with the Ute Water Conservancy District (UWCD) for water stored in Ruedi Reservoir, located on the Fryingpan River near Basalt, to supplement flows for existing instream flow water rights on the Colorado River. The CWCB approved entering into the Water Lease Agreement with the UWCD during a regular CWCB Board meeting in May 2015. This agreement allows the CWCB to lease between 6,000 acre-feet and 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi Reservoir for instream flow use on the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, located near Palisade, Colorado. No releases will result in overall flows from Ruedi exceeding 300 cfs.

The so-called 15-Mile Reach provides critical spawning habitat for the following endangered fish: Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub, and bonytail. It was determined that the water would be best utilized to preserve the natural environment at rates up to and exceeding the current instream flow rights to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) flow targets for the four endangered fish species in the reach. “These types of ‘win-win’ agreements are needed to assure that Colorado can beneficially use water within Colorado and help recover endangered fish that use the Colorado River for habitat,” said James Eklund, the Director of the CWCB.

The UWCD was established in 1965 for the purpose of supplying domestic water service to the rural areas of the Grand Valley, encompassing roughly 260 square miles and servicing over 80,000 people. The UWCD originally entered into a Repayment Contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in September 2013, through which it purchased 12,000 acre-feet of water annually from Ruedi Reservoir. By entering into this lease, the CWCB has access to this water on a short-term basis for the benefit of four endangered fish species. Water released from Ruedi Reservoir under this lease will also be available for non-consumptive power generation immediately above the reach, providing additional late summer benefits to the local area.

“This is the first time that the Species Conservation Trust Fund has been used to purchase stored water to supplement flows to critical habitat for endangered fish. We are excited that we have been able to use this particular funding source and our instream flow program for this purpose,” said Linda Bassi, Chief of the Stream and Lake Protection Section of the CWCB. Currently, the CWCB holds two instream flow water rights on the reach. Jana Mohrman, Hydrologist for the USFWS for the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program, added that “it’s outstanding to see the initiative and cooperation on behalf of the endangered fish by Ute Water and CWCB.”

“Colorado has always been on the leading edge of balancing the development of water resources with recovery of endangered species, and this lease is another example of how Colorado has been able to creatively balance those competing interests,” said Ted Kowalski, Chief of the Interstate, Federal & Water Information Section,

The CWCB has already coordinated with a variety of stakeholders within the affected reaches to implement the releases of this water from Ruedi Reservoir. This coordination will continue throughout the month of September.

Mine Spills Not That Rare — Colorado Central Magazine

From Colorado Central Magazine (Christopher Kolomitz):

The blowout reminded Central Colorado residents of two eerily similar incidents that fouled the Arkansas River in 1983 and 1985. The toxic discharges on the local river occurred in a period of time when the Environmental Protection Agency was beginning Superfund clean-up of old mines around Leadville. The culprit of both discharges was the Yak Tunnel, which was one of three constructed to drain mines in the district.

Leading up to Superfund designation, the years of inaction were becoming a public health emergency. Drainage ditches in Leadville neighborhoods were turned orange or red because of the heavy metals coming from the historical mines. Annual discharge from the Yak Tunnel was pumping 210 tons of heavy metals into California Gulch, which was then reaching the river, according to the EPA.

A few days after the incident, the river through Salida was running clear but state wildlife officials were worried about the impact upon the brown trout spawn, and they estimated up to half of the eggs may have been lost, the local paper reported. Subsequent research found that high levels of cadmium prevented fish from living more than three or four years, wildlife officials said.

Threat of another catastrophic discharge surfaced once again in February 2008, when alarm was raised over the potential blowout of the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Tunnel collapses and blockages had created a potentially dangerous situation for an uncontrolled surge. In response the EPA drilled a relief well, which worked to reduce the danger.

Twelve specific cleanup units were identified as part of the Superfund designation and to date, seven have been wrapped up to a point where regulators are calling them deleted from the operational plan. Examples of the process include construction of water diversion channels and settling ponds to prevent heavy metals from reaching surface water, and consolidation of smelter waste and mine tailings which were then covered with clean soil.

At the Yak Tunnel, a water treatment plant has been credited with dramatically improving water conditions in the Arkansas River, and the overall cleanup has been hailed as a success, although the EPA has ruffled some local feathers. The river now supports a vibrant, healthy fishery with greater public access, and the residents of Leadville and downstream are living around less toxicity.

NWS–Pueblo office: August 2015 Climate Review and September Preview across Southern Colorado

Click here to read the August review/September preview from the National Weather Service Pueblo office. Here’s an excerpt:

Upper level ridging across the state for much of the month made August of 2015 relatively warm and dry across south central and southeast Colorado, save for portions of the southeast plains which saw at or above normal precipipitation for the month as a whole. The following graphics depict preliminary departures from normal for both temperature and precipitation over the past month across the state.

The preliminary average temperature over the past month of August in Colorado Springs was 71.3 F. This is 2.6 degrees above normal and makes August of 2015 the 9th warmest August on record in Colorado Springs. This, however, remains well below the average temperature of 74.1 degrees recorded in August of 2011. Colorado Springs recorded 1.73 inches of precipitation throughout the month of August, which is 1.61 inches below normal.

The preliminary average temperature over the past month of August in Pueblo was 77.6 F. This is 4.2 degrees above normal and makes August of 2015 the 5th warmest August on record in Pueblo. This, however, remains well below the average temperature of 79.8 degrees recorded in August of 1970. Pueblo recorded 4.24 inches of precipitation through out the month of August. This is 1.92 inches above normal and makes August of 2015 the 6th wettest August on record in Pueblo. This, however, remains well below the 5.85 inches of precipitation recorded throughout August of 1955.

The preliminary average temperature over the past month of August in Alamosa was 64.0 degrees, which is 1.3 degrees above normal. Alamosa recorded 0.50 inches of precipitation throughout the month of August. This is 0.77 inches below normal and makes August of 2015 tied with August of 2012 and 1932 as the 14th driest August on record in Alamosa. This, however, remains well below the 0.11 inches of precipitation recorded through out August of 1944.

Looking ahead into September, in Colorado Springs, the average high and low temperatures of 79 degrees and 53 degrees on September 1st, cool to 69 degrees and 41 degrees by the end of the month, yielding an average monthly temperature of 60.9 degrees. Colorado Springs averages 1.19 inches of precipitation and 0.2 inches of snow throughout the month of September.

In Pueblo, the average high and low temperatures of 87 degrees and 54 degrees on September 1st, cool to 76 degrees and 41 degrees by the end of the month, yielding an average monthly temperature of 64.7 degrees. Pueblo averages 0.77 inches of precipitation and 0.3 inches of snow through out the month of September.

In Alamosa, the average high and low temperatures of 77 degrees and 43 degrees on September 1st, cool to 68 degrees and 31 degrees by the end of the month, yielding an average monthly temperature of 55.0 degrees. Alamosa averages 0.91 inches of precipitation throughout the month of September.

Below is the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) temperature and precipitation outlook for the month of September, which gives a slight nod to below normal temperatures and better chances for above normal precipitation across south central and southeast Colorado.